Tulsa inauguration 2009

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I went to the new ballroom at the Tulsa Convention Center for today's swearing-in of our new mayor, auditor, and city councilors.

Events like this bring together the diverse cast of characters that take an interest in local politics. There were federal, state, and local politicians, both current and former, neighborhood activists, politicos, developers, small business owners. It's like a dysfunctional family reunion for political nerds, complete with a few implacable feuds.

It was a happy privilege to greet some of my friends who were sworn in today, particularly those coming back to the City Council after a few years away. (I missed saying hello to a few of them -- had to leave to go back to work before I made the rounds.) Two of those friends, Rick Westcott and Maria Barnes, were elected as chairman and vice chairman of the Council for the coming year. It was wonderful, too, to see many friends who had volunteered to get these good people in office. Carol Barrow, for example -- Carol and her husband, Jim, Dave and Donna Beekman, Nancy Turner, and I spent a Saturday knocking doors for Nancy's husband Roscoe.

Bartlett's speech was short and to the point. If he does indeed focus on the basics and bring real fiscal conservatism back to City Hall, he'll have plenty of support from the council. Tulsa will be well served If he governs in accordance with the conservative Republican principles he espoused in his general election campaign, rather than following the lead of the predecessor he endorsed for re-election.

Rick Brinkley served as emcee. He did an excellent job and was a welcome change from 2006, when John Erling presided over Kathy Taylor's swearing-in.

One thing that struck me as odd about the ceremony. Marlin Lavanhar, pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church, gave the invocation and Bill Scheer, pastor of Guts Church, gave the benediction. Given that the new mayor is a Roman Catholic, I'm surprised we didn't see Bishop Slattery or a priest involved in the service in some way.

It's ironic: During the primary campaign, Bartlett pooh-poohed Chris Medlock's proposal to use one of the mayor's at-will appointments to hire an experienced city manager to oversee all city operations. Now Bartlett has hired Jim Twombly, recently the city manager of Broken Arrow, and Bartlett has only one person reporting directly to him -- Terry Simonson, who will... oversee all city operations.

"I haven't been involved in city management, so [Twombly's] input will be highly regarded," Bartlett said.

It's interesting, too, that two of the four chiefs atop Bartlett's org chart, Jim Twombly and Jeff Mulder, are Broken Arrow residents.

Personnel is policy, as they said back in the Reagan administration, and you can tell more about the future course of an official's term by the people he hires than by the promises he made during the campaign. These are the people who will have the mayor's ear as the input is sifted and the decision is made. From that perspective, I'm very sorry to see that Bartlett is keeping on several members of the Taylor administration.

I'm particularly sorry to see that Susan Neal is staying on to oversee city planning and neighborhood issues. Neal was elected to the District 9 City Council seat in 2002 after winning the Republican primary by a narrow margin, thanks to a last-minute smear campaign targeting civic leader and neighborhood activist Bonnie Henke. I'm concerned that, under Neal's influence, PLANiTULSA's carefully crafted win-win balance between development and preservation will be tilted entirely to the development side.

(We saw something similar happen with the 1999 Infill Task Force, which I hoped at the time would address the concerns of developers seeking to build in already developed areas as well as the concerns of property owners about infill that would erode the character of their neighborhoods. Instead, after revisions by then-Mayor Susan Savage, the resulting document was almost entirely one-sided. A proposal for neighborhood conservation districts was watered down to infill studies -- full of good recommendations, but lacking any enforcement mechanism.)

On another note: Standing in Oklahoma's largest ballroom, I felt a certain amount of vindication. Back in 2003, I said that a vote on a tax for a new arena didn't need to be coupled to a vote on expanding and improving the convention center. I said we could use the block southeast of 3rd and Houston for a new ballroom and additional meeting space. We could give voters the ability to choose improved convention facilities without having to subsidize an expensive sports facility. The proponents insisted that the two had to be coupled, that the only way to accommodate this giant ballroom we desperately needed was to eliminate the old arena. In the end, they kept the old arena and built the additional convention facilities where I had suggested.

Congratulations to our new city leaders. You have our prayers and best wishes.

MORE: Irritated Tulsan says farewell to Kathy Taylor with a list of her top ten un-greatest moments. And Steven Roemerman offers a video tribute to Kathy Taylor's 44 months in office.

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Mark Burleson said:

I really had to re-read when you mentioned he hired Twombly.. I was glad when BA fired him (can't say I like most of our councilors either or the new CM).

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 7, 2009 11:00 PM.

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